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How To Ideate Online PR Concepts That Deliver Immense Value

A graphic saying: "How To Ideate Online PR Concepts That Deliver Immense Value."

This blog is written by Alex Creek, Sr. Digital PR Lead at NP Digital.

Every digital PR campaign is a result of an idea that’s bolstered by a newsworthy concept and sound data to bring it to life.

Seems straightforward enough, right?

There’s just one problem, though.

In an industry with rising competition and PR professionals outnumbering journalists, it’s more challenging than ever to have your content stand out. That’s why a solid brainstorming technique is vital. Brainstorming (the process of generating creative ideas) is often more challenging than it appears.

Even the most creative digital PR pros can find themselves struggling to come up with fresh concepts when put on the spot. This is why proper research into things like news trends and what competitors are doing well is so important. Before you attend your next digital PR brainstorm session, there are three essential steps you should follow before putting pen to paper.

Step 1: Understanding Digital PR and Its Goals

Before diving into the creative process of ideation, it’s crucial to have a clear understanding of what a digital PR campaign entails. In many brainstorming sessions, I’ve observed how marketers can end up with ideas that don’t quite align with the campaign’s ultimate objectives. At NP Digital, we emphasize the importance of ensuring that everyone involved, internally and externally, comprehends the purpose of a digital PR campaign and its goals. 

Shareable assets lie at the heart of a digital PR campaign, representing a fusion of traditional public relations, content marketing, SEO, and social media. These assets are information-rich, engaging, data-driven content pieces that are inherently newsworthy. They serve as the catalysts for earning media mentions, web traffic, and valuable backlinks from top online publishers.

The primary goals of a shareable asset in a digital PR campaign are as follows:

  • Build backlinks and page rankings through earned media outreach.
  • Expose your brand to new audiences and generate new demand.
  • Reinforce your brand identity and build recognition.

To gauge the effectiveness of your digital PR campaign, several key performance indicators (KPIs) come into play. These include metrics such as backlinks acquired, unique referring domains, media mentions, social engagement, keyword rankings, referral traffic, and more.

Now that we’ve laid the groundwork, let’s talk about what they are and what they aren’t.

Digital PR campaigns aren’t:

  • Transactional pages
  • Blog articles
  • Guides
  • How-tos
  • Roundups
  • Thought leadership articles
  • Timelines

 But they ARE:

  • Surveys
  • Data studies
  • Unique visualizations
  • Contests

Note that these are not exhaustive lists, but a few examples.

Step 2: Understand the Brand

The next pivotal step in the ideation process involves digging deep into your client’s or brand’s identity, history, and offerings. It’s easy to get carried away with grandiose ideas, but before reaching for the stars, you must firmly understand what you are working with. 

Here at NP Digital, not every person involved in brainstorming sessions is close to a client’s niche, which is great because it brings a fresh perspective. However, it’s all the more important to make sure everyone involved in the process familiarizes themselves with the client’s industry before they start to think of ideas. 

For agency professionals juggling multiple clients/brands on a daily basis, understanding the client before you start brainstorming is paramount. This encompasses:

  • Uncovering the brand’s past campaigns
  • Identifying potential opportunities for recurring content
  • Recognizing any constraints or restrictions related to website functionality
  • Establishing clear guidelines on topics to avoid

Additionally, a grasp of the timeline and project scope is essential to ensure that your brainstormed ideas are not only creative but realistic and aligned with the client’s objectives.

If you find your team is having trouble understanding a niche and where to start, try playing a game of word association. For example, if your brand or client’s core offering is web hosting, think of brainstorming around topics like websites, internet, tech, and e-commerce to open up your train of thought.

Step 3: Analyze the Competition and Media Landscape

Now that you understand your brand’s core products and services and the goals of a digital PR campaign, let’s look at the external environment.

The third essential step in the ideation process involves comprehensively analyzing the competitive landscape and the broader media environment. To craft a digital PR strategy that stands out and captures attention, it’s imperative to answer three fundamental questions:

1. What are my client’s competitors doing? Understanding the strategies and initiatives of your client’s most successful competitors is crucial in navigating a crowded landscape. It allows you to identify gaps and opportunities where your client can carve a unique presence. By studying their strengths, weaknesses, and past campaigns, you can develop ideas that strategically differentiate your client’s brand, ensuring that your digital PR efforts are not only inventive but also tailored to outshine the competition.

2. What is trending right now in the media and online? Staying up to date with current trends and conversations in the media is pivotal. It enables you to tap into the pulse of public interest and align your campaign with topics already capturing attention. By identifying emerging trends and relevant news stories, you can position your brand or client as a timely and authoritative voice in the ongoing dialogue, ensuring your digital PR efforts remain both engaging and relevant.

3. What do people care about? Ultimately, a successful digital PR campaign hinges on connecting with an audience’s interests and concerns. What might come as a surprise to some is that digital PR campaigns aren’t always created with the brand’s current audience in mind, but the audience they haven’t tapped into yet. Ultimately, you want to create and promote a digital PR campaign that a subset of people will take interest in, tapping into your existing audience’s interest or capturing new demand elsewhere. 

Analyzing the competition and media landscape in light of these questions empowers you to craft ideas that are not only creative but can give you confidence that your idea will capture the attention you’re setting out for. At the end of the day, it’s a journalist’s role to gather information and write stories about interesting or significant news. 

What kind of content can you create to fuel their stories? 

If you’re still looking for a lifeline to assist in your brainstorming, there are several tools I’ve used throughout my career and here at NP Digital to help generate ideas for digital PR campaigns.

Here are the main ones:

#1. Google News

If you want to know what’s making the headlines in your industry, head over to Google News. 

Here are the results for “credit cards.”

Google news results for credit cards.

By doing a quick scan of the headlines aggregated in the search, I see a few ideas I can brainstorm around regarding summer travel, debt, and inflation. 

Now it’s your turn.

Search within your niche and aggregate relevant articles you find so you’re ready for your next brainstorming session.

To get more targeted results related to studies or surveys that have been covered on your desired topic, refine your search even more. Like this: 

A refined Google search for "Credit cards."

#2. AnswerThePublic

Another tool to use to brainstorm digital PR ideas is AnswerThePublic. It’s a search listening tool that provides a goldmine of content ideas with high search volume. For example, I entered “credit card” as my search term and got this:

AnswerThePublic results for Credit Card.

AnswerThePublic is useful for seeing what the general public is wondering about related to your desired topic. 

#3. Ahrefs

To see what your competitors are up to, go to Ahrefs Site Explorer, enter your competitor’s name in the search, and view the “Best by links” feature.

Best by links” in Ahrefs shows you which pages or subsections on your target website have the most external backlinks directed to them, making it easier to find high-performing digital PR campaigns. 

The best by links section in Ahrefs.

#4. ChatGPT

Everyone is talking about ChatGPT, and with good reason. It’s an incredible tool if you’re experiencing a creative block and need help with word association or generating trending ideas related to your desired topic. 

A ChatGPT result for newsworthy topics about credit cards.

#5. Forum Communities

What are people’s pain points? And what questions do they want answered? Go to forums like Reddit to find out.

Look at these results about credit cards. Inspired yet? I am! For example, the “pesky credit acronyms” submission could make for a fun campaign around the states most and least knowledgeable of popular financial terminology.

Reddit posts on credit cards.

And the question about the credit card and non-refundable tickets? I could survey consumers to discover how many have had similar problems and interview an expert to explain people’s rights under these circumstances for an accompanying video marketing component. 

That’s a story the media might pick up on.

#6. BuzzSumo Content Analyzer

To find out what’s working for your competitors, check out BuzzSumo’s Content Analyzer. This search for credit cards shows total engagement and total placements over time. By understanding which blogs and articles are attracting the most traction, you can develop similar ideas.

BuzzSumo’s Content Analyzer is also helpful in deciding the best time to pitch a certain topic based on number of placements and engagement during a certain period. 

Buzzsumo content analyzer results.

#7. Digital PR Newsletters and Social Channels

If your inbox is full of newsletters, then you’ve got plenty of inspiration right at your fingertips. Here’s an example from Content, Curated.

A newsletter from Content, Curated.

A newer one on the scene that’s been immensely helpful for me and the NP Digital team is The Grapevine by Iona Townsley. 

The Grapevine by Iona Townsley

Both offer a direct look at what other brands and agencies are producing in the digital PR space and can be powerful competitive analysis and brainstorming tools. 

FAQs

What is the difference between traditional public relations and digital PR?

While traditional public relations and digital PR share many similarities, the key differences lie within the ultimate goals and channels used to amplify brand awareness. Traditional public relations entails amplifying brand awareness and managing a brand’s reputation through long-standing tactics like press releases, print coverage, and radio. Digital PR seeks to amplify brand awareness, manage reputation, and increase a brand’s online presence through bloggers, media, social media, and influencers. 

What is digital PR?

Digital PR is a strategy to increase your brand’s online visibility. Think of it as a combination of traditional PR and SEO. It involves creating newsworthy content you can pitch to media outlets to obtain backlinks and brand mentions on high-authority websites, generate social shares, drive referral traffic, and build keyword rankings.

Why is digital PR important for SEO?

Digital PR is important to work into your SEO strategy because it’s a powerful way to earn external backlinks and brand mentions to your brand or website. Google has divulged that high-authority, relevant backlinks are a ranking factor in its algorithm. It sees external links such as this as a vote of confidence for a website. While creating unique and helpful onsite content that earns links organically is a great way to build your backlink profile, digital PR allows you to share content with audiences that might not have seen it without you putting it in front of them and earn powerful pieces of coverage you might have never received without it. 

Conclusion

These days, digital PR has become an essential part of a brand’s digital strategy as they use it to build authority, trust, and recognition in a sea of competitors. For those new to the industry or looking for support getting out of a creative rut, there’s no shortage of resources you can use to help you brainstorm concepts for your digital PR campaigns. 

For example, you can find out what’s on people’s minds by using AnswerThePublic, searching Google News to find hot topics, or dropping into top forums like Reddit to do a niche search into what the public is talking about.

When you adopt the techniques in this article, you’ll find plenty of inspiration to fuel your digital PR brainstorming sessions.

How do you use digital PR to elevate your business? Tell us below.

A picture of Alex Creek, Sr. Digital PR Lead at NP Digital.

About The Author: For nearly seven years, Alex has worked in digital PR in agency and in-house settings producing and pitching digital PR campaigns to garner media coverage and executing traditional link-building strategies to boost organic search rankings. In 2020, Alex led the promotion strategy for a digital PR campaign that was shortlisted by the US Search Awards for “Best Use of Content Marketing” and has been featured on Linkio.com and Triangle Marketing Club’s blog.

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